Mother says project teaches animal care, biology, math and marketing
Sophia Oster, 12, slowly approaches Jasmine, gently slipping a pink halter around the llama’s head in her family’s 19th-century barn outside of Fredericktown, Ohio (pop. 2,493).
“She’s a good girl,” says Sophia, before leading the tall, long-necked animal to a livestock trailer. “People always like to pet her.”
Once the llama is secured in the trailer, Sophia scurries around the barnyard rounding up chickens, goats and rabbits for her father, Michael, to transport to First Friday, a monthly community event on the public square in nearby Mount Vernon, where she regularly displays her mobile menagerie.
Sophia launched Sophia’s Petting Zoo in 2007 for the Fredericktown Christmas Walk. The event previously had featured farm animals, but when the petting zoo owner withdrew, the enterprising youngster decided to start her own.
“She said, ‘I want to bless the town with a petting zoo,’” recalls her mother, Valerie, 45. “She had her heart set on it.”
At the time, the Osters had one llama, one lamb, one goat, a few rabbits and chickens, and only a Honda minivan to transport the animals.
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